Saturday, November 03, 2007

"Why the hell we listening to a bunch of limeys" ... List junkies, have at it ... The Telegraph's Top 100 Liberals and Conservatives

By J. Thomas Duffy

Oh boy, can't wait to see the fur flying on this one.

Who made the list ... Who didn't make the list ... Why was my guy #5, he should have been #1 ... Why is this person even on the list ... Here's my own list ... Your list sucks ... Their list sucks ... Why the hell are we listening to a bunch of Limeys... Who you calling a Limey, you pinhead ...

There'll be passion, there'll be despair ... I wouldn't rule out someone making a witty anagram out of the lists ... Oh yeah, YouTube songs ... Dozens-and-dozens, putting the lists to music and dittys (Hmmm ... Can you smell one, something like "My List In A Box"?)

The United Kingdom's Telegraph has on-line today the Top 100 U.S. Liberals and Conservatives Lists, which they say was motivated on "The 2008 election is arguably the most open contest since 1928. The victor will become the most powerful person in the world at a time of almost unprecedented challenge and turmoil."

"We have chosen political candidates, pollsters, campaign operatives, members of think tanks, journalists, bloggers, fundraisers, big-money donors and the occasional celebrity."

Someone is bound to be crying over this (perhaps John Boehner).

So, grab a tall cool one, kick back and Google, or check out Memeorandum, every hour or so, and be thoroughly entertained.


The Links

The top US conservatives and liberals

Why Bush failed to make our Top 20

Attytood: America's "most influential" conservative isn't conservative

Glenn Greenwald: Petraeus named second most influential "conservative"

#2 lies harder

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Water, water, everywhere

By Carl

As I write this, Hurricane Noel (because he's not in the tropics anymore, he's more precisely referred to as Nor'Easter Noel), is bearing down on the New York City area.

But my problems pale by comparison:

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has pledged the full support of his government to help more than a million people hit by floods in Tabasco state.

Mr Calderon said on a visit to Tabasco that the entire air force was involved in shifting supplies to the region where more than 800,000 are homeless.

Some 80% of the state is under water in the worst flooding for 50 years.

This isn't "shades of Katrina," this IS Katrina, times four!

800,000 homeless. 100% of the harvest in the region is gone, just gone. Livestock, not to mention people, dead. The oil industry has been forced to shut down three major oil ports in Mexico for the past week, after the storms that caused this flooding lifted one drilling rig and slammed it into another, killing twenty one workers.

And take a look at that map: Tabasco and Chiapas are not exactly the wealthy, tony states of Mexico. Chiapans are desperately poor, mostly banana farmers, and other tropical crops. 40% of Chiapans suffer from malnutrition, despite the bountiful harvest of fruit.

Tabasco is a bit better off. The state capital, Villahermosa, is a large, thriving city, and the Grijalva River has been kind to Tabasco.

Had been kind, I should say. My God, this is horrible!

(Cross-posted at Simply Left Behind.)

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Tracking the Loonie 2

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(Tracking the Loonie 1, with links to previous posts, is here.)

On the one hand, we rock. On the other hand, this is getting rather worrisome, no matter how proud and patriotic it makes us feel:

The loonie hit a record Friday, jumping 2 full cents after a stronger-than-expected jobs report dimmed the odds of an interest-rate cut.

The Canadian dollar, already the world's best-performing major currency this year, rose as high as $1.0717 (U.S.) Friday from Thursday's close of $1.0512. It settled Friday's session at $1.0704, up 1.92 cents.

The currency has soared 25 per cent this year against the greenback — and almost 7 per cent in the past month alone. The gains are most striking against the U.S. dollar, but the loonie is also stronger against every single major world currency this year, including the euro, the yen and the Brazilian real.

The latest flight took place after a report showed the economy added 63,000 jobs, far more than expected, sending the jobless rate to a 33-year low.

So -- an all-time high, or at least since records have been kept. Some currency analysts are setting a target of $1.10 -- and, not being a currency analyst myself, I have no reason to disbelieve them. However, some analysts, perhaps some of the same ones, are predicting that our dollar will fall back to parity, or perhaps just below it, in the second half of next year -- and, for all I know, they may be right, too. In other words, the Loonie may go up in the short-term, but it is, it would seem, overvalued, and a long-term (or medium-term, whatever) readjustment is likely.

The Canadian economy is exceptionally strong at the moment, but the strong dollar is hurting our export industry, among other industries that depend on foreign investment, or the inflow of foreign capital, such as tourism. And because of the employment situation alongside the strong economy, an interest rate reduction, which could force a currency readjustment, is unlikely over the short-term.

And yet, to a certain extent, the strength of both our economy and our currency is fragile. Employment gains have not come in private industry but in the government and social service sectors. And the rise of the Loonie owes a great deal to a similar rise in the price of oil.

All of which puts the Bank of Canada in a difficult position. What to do? What to do?

Sometimes, strength is a mask for weakness. Sometimes, it is a double-edged sword. I won't take anything away from what is genuinely a robust economy, one of the world's strongest, but good news is not always what it seems.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Schumer's tortured logic

By Creature

The WaPo today has a piece on Senator Schumer and how he "may be the key" to getting the nominated attorney general, Michael Mukasey, out of committee and to the Senate floor for a vote (where he will surely be confirmed). This paragraph stands out as a perfect example of how far we have fallen.

"From this administration, we will never get somebody who agrees with us on issues like torture and wiretapping," Schumer said at one point, suggesting an argument in favor of Mukasey, who faces a Senate Judiciary Committee vote on Tuesday. "The best thing we can hope for is someone who will depoliticize the Justice Department and put rule of law first."

Excuse me, Chuck, torture is not an "issue" to be agreed upon or not, there is no give and take, it's against the law. Schumer is basically saying we cannot get the Bush administration, or someone they appoint, to "agree with us" to "put the rule of law first." Something we all know, but shouldn't go along with. To frame the Mukasey hedge on waterboarding's illegality as a disagreement on the issues, as opposed to the law, is wrong and I fear this does signal Schumer's ultimate cave on this nominee.

I hope the Dems realize that once Mukasey gets confirmed they will officially be on the side of the GOP nut jobs who are willing to minimize and compare waterboarding to a "CIA-sponsored swim lesson." Nice work.

Update: My letter to Senator Schumer, my senator, has been sent.

Update II: Schumer and Feinstien will support Mukasey. No one will support the rule of law. Somewhere, in an undisclosed location, the vice president smiles.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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No child's left behind unspanked?

By Carl

Simply Left Behind: The 2007 Weblog Awards


Given the way Michelle Malkin and other Orcs of the Right Wing went after those two kids who made commercials in favor of SCHIP, do you think they'll spend a moment trying to track down the identity of the kid who caused the single most destructive fire in American history?

Minutes after the fire broke out, Conner said, she had raced up a hill toward the source of the flames. At the top, she saw a stunned-looking 10-year-old boy and his parents frantically trying to beat the flames down with towels.

"There's no reason to talk to other people," Conner, a horse trainer at the ranch where the fire started, recalled telling arson investigators. "You need to go straight up the road and talk to that boy."

The 10-year-old quickly admitted he had been playing with matches.

On Thursday, as authorities considered whether to file criminal charges, neighbors gave conflicting accounts of the boy's behavior.

Denise Tomey, who runs the Carousel Ranch where the boy lived in a small trailer with his family, described him as a quiet child who often played outside with his brother and the family's small white and tan dog, Spike.

"From what I know, he's a good kid," said Tomey, executive director of the ranch, which provides riding lessons to developmentally disabled children. The boy's father tends horses there and the boy attends a nearby school.

"He's a child and I certainly believe that he had no malice, and I absolutely believe it was accidental," Tomey said.

The short answer: No.

Can you say "white Republican offspring"? I knew that you could...

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Rudy's radio daze

By Capt. Fogg

I saw the movie
World Trade Center the other day; the story about the last two NY firefighters to be pulled out of the wreckage alive. The film has them futilely trying to reach anyone on their handheld radios and their inability to do that may help keep Rudy out of the White House. Rudy's sole selling point seems to be the concocted image of him as the Hero of Ground Zero who by magical extension can save us from the nasty men who blow things up.

Mayor Rudy of course didn't buy the more expensive
APCO compatible radios but instead gave the no-bid contract (after years of inaction) to supply mobile and handheld radios to police and fire departments to Motorola who had not demonstrated their equipment in field tests and who charged the city $14 million or ten times the proposed price for the system. Is it any surprise that the radios did not work and had to be pulled from the field? As a consequence the fire department had to resort to the decades old radios that had demonstrated their obsolescence after the last WTC attack in 1993.

One of the problems that exists in many areas is the inability of various agencies to communicate directly because some departments have radios that work on different frequencies than others and nearby municipalities may have different systems and channels. This is why radio amateurs are needed to take over when radio towers fall, cell phones go dead and land lines are cut or overloaded. Municipal systems with incompatible frequency assignments and fragile infrastructures are far more vulnerable than people in non-hurricane territory realize.

As happens too often in places like Florida and the gulf coast during hurricanes, NYC became a tower of Babel on 9/11 and it didn't have to happen. Back in the 90's, the Association of Public Safety Officers, or APCO created the
Project 25 or P25 standard for radios that are flexible enough to allow them to "talk" with older radios, analog and digital, simplex and duplex with trunked and conventional systems. All the public safety agencies can communicate and police and paramedics can for instance, hear the cries for help from trapped firemen or warn them to get out of a burning building.

Of course the purpose of Republican government is to privatize public funds by distributing them to corporations without competitive bidding or any demonstration of the effectiveness of the product in question. New York seems to have done just that and some people are mad as hell, namely the FDNY who lost so many people because what we had on that day of infamy was a failure to communicate. Firefighters in NYC and across the country along with a
New York City Council member are trying to expose Rudy for his incompetence and for having the effrontery to pose as a hero the way he posed for the cameras 6 years ago. Look for the longer story at The REAL Rudy and at today's Huffington Post.

(Cross-posted from
Human Voices.)

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Tear gas and tyranny

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Not a big fan of Hugo Chavez? Not so enthusiastic about his tyrannical rule? Well, take that:

Venezuelan troops have used tear gas and water cannon to disperse thousands of students in the capital, Caracas.

The students are demonstrating against constitutional reforms proposed by Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez.

One of the reforms would abolish term limits for the presidency, thus allowing President Chavez to stand for re-election indefinitely.

The students want a December referendum on the reforms to be postponed, to give voters more time to study the plans.

That's right, all the protesters want is a postponement, hardly a radical proposal. But any opposition to Chavez is anathema to his national socialist revolution, which does not allow for opposition, and, it seems, any opposition will be put down. Brutally, if necessary -- and even if not. Brutality comes with the revolution, a revolution to install Chavez himself as permanent dictator of a brutalized Venezuela, just as it comes with Chavez's rule generally.

And the use of tear gas is probably on the soft end of the brutality. The troops were no doubt going easy on the protesters -- easy this time, but what else is going on in Venezuela? What else is Chavez inflicting on the people of his country? Enough to turn even Giuliani's stomach, one imagines.

It must be very, very bad in today's Venezuela. And it is only going to get worse.


I have already, in many other posts, addressed Chavez's tyranny, as well as these reforms. For my recent post on what I called Chavez's "salami tactics," tyranny slice-by-slice, see here. For more on this "coup," see here. For previous posts on Chavez's "abolition of democracy," see here.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Jeff Gannon Speaks! ... To The Garlic!

By J. Thomas Duffy

A minor occurance at The Garlic this week.

Monday started in quite typical fashion.

Fired up the computer, pulled up The Garlic and, lo-and-behold, there was a comment in our "Wag The FEMA" post... A big, shiny comment...

And it was from Jeff Gannon!

Could it be the same, softball-throwing Jeff Gannon? The fake-reporter-working-for-a-fake-news-organization Jeff Gannon?

It quickly passed through my mind, that, no, it couldn't be.

It had to be a fake Jeff Gannon, and that quickly turned into thinking who would want to be a fake Jeff Gannon?

Would they be longing, or plotting, to get into the White House Press Briefing Room and feed pablum to the Press Secretary (thought, the current one, Dana Perino, certainly has shown she doesn't need a plant in the audience, she does fine creating her own)? Was this fake Jeff Gannon also a hot military stud? Was this fake Jeff Gannon sitting there, day-after-day, hoping against all hope, that another covert, CIA agent would be outed, so fake Jeff Gannon could play a role in exposing their name?

Would the fake Jeff Gannon be calling themselves by a name different from their given one?

That one made me think of the Steven Wright joke, about making instant coffee in the microwave oven.

I suppose, a fake Jeff Gannon (and using a fake, fake name), could, possibly, find some work, in one of those celebrity look-alike agencies.

But that gave way to wondering if the real Jeff Gannon was a celebrity.

Infamy, certainly, the 15-minutes-of-fame thing... But does that 15-minutes in the spotlight automatically give you the title of "celebrity"?

I checked The Google, to see if I could find any requirement, standards that had to be met in order to call yourself a celebrity (and not a fake celebrity, the kind that would work for a look-alike agency).

Didn't find anything. Anybody can call themselves a celebrity, though, it's not clear that anyone else would call you one. You could probably count on some friends and family, but that's not a given.

I mean, let's be real here.

If it only takes 15 minutes to become a celebrity, Christ, the place would be crawling with them.

There'd be all kinds of celebrity news shows... Reality shows... Game shows... Probably sports and dancing shows...

Wait a minute... Scratch that...

No, it is the real Jeff Gannon ... Jump on over to The Garlic to read the rest of "Jeff Gannon Speaks! ... To The Garlic!" , including a breakdown of his comment, the real reason for his comment and Bonus Jeff Gannon Links

A great moment in softball history

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Busted and dusted

By Carl

Some sanity
appears to be creeping back into American society:

Westboro Baptist Church, a fundamentalist Christian group based in Topeka, Kan., has protested military funerals across the country with placards bearing shock-value messages such as "Thank God for dead soldiers."

They contend that the deaths are punishment for America's tolerance of homosexuality and of gays in the military.

At the March 2006 funeral of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq, church members waved fire-and-brimstone placards near the funeral motorcade. Snyder's father sued Westboro and three church leaders for emotional distress and won a nearly $11 million jury verdict Wednesday in Baltimore.

For a long time, it was hard to believe the WBC (whose congregation has its webpage not at "" or anything like that, but at was serious. A more strident parody of conservative Christianity than, say, the Landover Baptist Church.

Apparently, they were serious.

In his post-verdict discussion from the bench, Judge Richard Bennett noted the award "far exceeds the net worth of the defendants," according to the AP account. This means that it's unlikely Fred Phelps or his thuggish co-horts will ever be able to speak in public, much less hold hatred to a lower standard.

Now... if someone would only sue Ann Coulter...

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Tons of money: National Intelligence budget disclosed

By Carol Gee

The amount of money the the U.S. spends on spying is astonishing: $43.5 billion. That is $144.45 for each of the 301,139,947 (July 2007 est.) people in the United States. Recently revealed figures do not count the military spy budget, nor do they tell us how much of that money is spent spying on Americans. The New York Times reports that, quote:

Congress authorized spending of $43.5 billion over the past year to operate spy satellites, remote surveillance stations and outposts overseas, according to a budget figure released Tuesday by Mike McConnell, director of national intelligence.

. . . lawmakers, acting on a recommendation by the Sept. 11 commission, pushed a law through Congress this summer requiring that the director of national intelligence reveal the spending authorization figure within 30 days after the close of the fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30.

The number released Tuesday does not include the billions of dollars that military services spend annually on intelligence operations. The total spying budget for the last fiscal year, including this Pentagon spending, is said to have been in excess of $50 billion.

To get further size perspective I did a little more research because the amount seems excessive. From Wiki Answers we get this tidbit about "how much is . . . "

. . . I can tell you that most U.S. currency weighs exactly one gram per note (bill). There are four hundred fifty-four grams (rounded to the nearest whole number) in one pound. Therefore, one pound of U.S. $100 bills would be worth about: $45,400!!!

Using these figures and doing the math
means that $43,500,000,000 amounts to 435 million $100 bills. That much money in $100 bills weighs 9581 pounds or 4.79 tons. In dollars it would amount to 479 tons of paper dollar bills. It would take six of our 3/4-ton Texas trucks, loaded heavy, to deliver all the $100 bills from the Treasury to Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell's office.

Tons of money spread around -- The International Herald Tribune, as usual, has one of the better stories on the subject, with this additional information on what our tax dollars buy. To quote:

How the money is divided among the 16 intelligence agencies and exactly what it is spent on is classified. It includes salaries for about 100,000 people, multi-billion dollar secret satellite programs, aircraft, weapons, electronic sensors, intelligence analysts, spies, computers and software.

Much of the intelligence budget __ about 70 percent__ goes to contractors for the procurement of technology and services including analysis, according to a May 2007 chart from the DNI's office.

. . . The intelligence agencies have fought multiple legal attempts to disclose their budgets, including the CIA, the National Reconnaissance Office, National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the agencies inside the State, Treasury and Homeland Security departments, among others. They have argued that adversaries can divine secrets about intelligence activities if they can track budget fluctuations year to year.

. . . A top intelligence official inadvertently disclosed the overall intelligence spending figure two years ago at a conference that was open to the public. She said it was $44 billion (€30.5 billion).

National security analysts outside the government usually estimate the annual budget at about 10 percent of the total U.S. defense budget, which in 2007 was about $430 billion (€298.4 billion) plus nearly $200 billion (€138.8 billion) in war spending.

"DNI Discloses National Intelligence Program Budget" is the headline used by Steven Aftergood, who writes Secrecy News -- from the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy. Aftergood is often quoted in the stories about the disclosure. This is a story he must have written with great satisfaction on October 30. To quote:

As required by law, the Director of National Intelligence today disclosed (pdf) that the budget for the National Intelligence Program in Fiscal Year 2007 was $43.5 billion.

The disclosure was strongly resisted by the intelligence bureaucracy, and for that very reason it may have significant repercussions for national security classification policy.

Although the aggregate intelligence budget figures for 1997 and 1998 ($26.6 and $26.7 billion respectively) had previously been disclosed in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the Federation of American Scientists, intelligence officials literally swore under oath that any further disclosures would damage national security.

Here is some perspective on how much money $43.5 billion amounts to in other areas of spending.

  • Bigger than many other budgets -- According to Reuters, the story most often used by the news media, I quote:

    The figure, which is roughly equal to the entire economy of Croatia or Qatar, dwarfs the estimated intelligence budgets of any other country including the closest U.S. ally, Britain, which spends about 10 percent of the amount, he [Aftergood] said.

  • Just a bit less than 4 years of U.S. aid to Iraq -- From the Khaleej Times "Most of the 44.5 billion dollar US reconstruction aid to Iraq since the 2003 invasion has been focused on the oil and electricity sectors," the Washington Post said.

  • Equal to China's support last year for all its rural people -- The People's Daily Online reported in 2006 that "A total of 339.7 billion yuan (43.5 billion U.S. dollars) went from central coffers to rural areas this year, an increment of 42.2 billion yuan (5.4 billion U.S. dollars) on last year."

For more information, following are references with which I intend to explore further the question of how much of this budget is spent on domestic intelligence. That will be very difficult, and I am sure it is a question in which Steven Aftergood is also very interested. As an aside, it that man's name heaven-sent for his mission?

Update: Here is a link to an information filled comment to this post at another site, TPMCafe. Howard Berkowitz adds useful insights to this rather murky business, and he caught a typo, too. Thanks to Howard.

  1. Good charts from Steven Aftergood -- "Tracing the Rise and Fall of Intelligence Spending"
  2. Daylife -- All the major stories from U.S. and foreign sources linked
  3. Wired -- Danger Room "Secret Intel Budget Revealed"
  4. Washington Post -- "Related Content" link-rich page

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Waterboarding, lies and dishonor

By Creature

Today the NYT reports on the central dilemma facing attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey with respect to his hedge on waterboarding and its illegality. As Atrios has been pointing out since this controversy arose, if Mukasey admits that waterboarding is illegal, which it is, he must then, as attorney general, begin prosecuting those who authorized its use.

While I would like nothing better than to prosecute Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld for authorizing such morally reprehensible actions and dragging the United States down to Hussein levels, JB, who put the Balkin in Balkinization, reminds us that prosecution is not so cut and dry:

The Congress twice bestowed immunity in the Detainee Treatment Act and the Military Commissions Act. And if CIA operatives acted in good faith on OLC opinions, which are binding law in the executive branch, they are immune from prosecution. Even if these immunities do not extend to civil lawsuits, such lawsuits are likely barred by a combination of immunities created for government (and military) personnel. The Administration has been quite careful to ensure that its members-- and those obeying its orders-- will never be held to account in any American court of law.

Of course the administration would find a way to "ensure that its members-- and those obeying its orders-- will never be held to account in any American court of law." They have covered their collective asses, though I would bet the legal arguments contained in the Office of Legal Counsel's [OLC] opinions are rather flimsy.

So, why not just admit that waterboarding is illegal. JB continues:

The real reason why Judge Mukasey cannot say that waterboarding is illegal is that Administration officials have repeatedly insisted that they do not torture, and that they have acted both legally and honorably. If Judge Mukasey said that waterboarding is illegal, it would require the Bush Administration to admit that it repeatedly lied to the American people and brought shame and dishonor on the United States of America. If Judge Mukasey were to say waterboarding is illegal and not just "a dunk in the water" in Vice President Cheney's terminology, he would have announced that, as incoming Attorney General, he is entering an Administration of liars and torturers.

But, here's the thing, either way Mukasey is entering an "administration of liars and torturers." If he didn't know this when he accepted the nomination, he certainly does now. And, while I accept JB's legal interpretation, I do still think Mukasey's hedge is more about actual prosecution, or at least the perceived worry of such prosecution.

Personally, I don't think Bush/Cheney give a flying fuck if they are proved to be an administration that "repeatedly lied to the American people and brought shame and dishonor on the United States of America." They will hide behind the terror banner until their last breath, and if only it was a waterboarded breath, regardless of the destruction and disgrace they have caused. Their disdain for everything America stands for, or stood for, is unparalleled.

The fact that Mukasey [guided by Addington] determined that he must hedge on the legality of waterboarding should be enough to start impeachment hearings, if not criminal prosecutions.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Poetic license

By Carl

For my part, my position on undocumented workers has always been clear: immigrants are the single biggest economic engine this country has ever had, bigger even than the westward expansion (which was caused and created mostly by immigrants anyway... it wasn't white Anglo-Saxons saying "there goes the neighborhood").

Ergo, any unnecessary restriction on immigration in my book is stupid, nevermind unenforceable. For the record, I am first-and-a-half generation American.

Then comes Tuesday's debate, where Hillary was lambasted for giving a realistic, practical answer, if clumsily worded and even more clumsily defended later on, where it appeared she flip-flopped on
Eliot Spitzer's licensing plan for immigrants. Under his plan, which was defeated by the state Senate, undocumented immigrant workers would be allowed to obtain driver's licenses.

There's an awful lot of sense here, even if at first blush it seems unpalatable to people who don't share such a generous view about immigration as I do: encouraging them to get legal documentation to drive means they'll be more likely to purchase insurance for their driving, and that means a smaller insurance hit to the rest of us. As it is, they can't buy insurance.

If even a small percentage of "undocumentarians" get their licenses, we've made some headway against one of the more intractable problems of this issue: the costs to society.

Since Congress has abrogated its responsibility on the issue, as Hillary took pains to point out during the debate, Spitzer's plan makes an awful lot of sense. You're not giving anything away to anyone, but you are giving something back to the people who were here first: more security.

Obviously, if Congress later decides to take a stronger anti-immigration stance, Spitzer's plan can close up shop quickly. No harm, no foul.

So what this argument really is all about is the perception that, by having a driver's license, you are making an undocumented worker more American by making him more documented.

Rubbish. A driver's license is not a replacement for a tourist visa, much less a work permit or a green card. And now that the State Department has initiated a "passports for all international travelers" policy, it's not even like a driver's license will get you back into the country at the border.

When most people think of undocumented workers, they think of the day laborers at the corner 7-11 or gas station, waiting for pick up to a menial job (that pays so little, you couldn't get an American to do it anyway).

But many undocumented workers have been here for decades. They own and run businesses: bars, dry cleaners, subcontractors for the construction trades, vegetable stands, restaurants, newspaper delivery services, daycare, private school buses.

In other words, they already drive with the risk of knowing that even one accident can drive them out of business, and knowing that one accident will be unrecoverable to the person or property owner that is damaged.

And they contribute to society, especially to the economy. Believe it or not, they DO pay some taxes: sales tax, for example, or gasoline taxes.

Now, I'm not proposing throwing the borders wide open to anyone who has the gumption to clamber across, or throw out the visa program and let people stay as long as they like. We need some form of bouncer standing there, deciding who can and can't come in: who's going to add to our society while tossing those who means us harm.

But lets not blame immigrants for our own paranoia.

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"I write to urge you to consider pursuing direct, unconditional and comprehensive talks with the Government of Iran"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So wrote Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) to President Bush in an as-yet-unreleased letter -- copied to Rice, Gates, and Hadley -- that was passed to Steve Clemons at The Washington Note, where it is reprinted in full. Here's part of it:

I am increasingly concerned, however, that this diplomatic strategy is stalling. There are growing differences with our international partners. Concerns remain that the United States' actual objectives is regime change in Iran, not a change in Iran's behavior. Prospects for further action in the UN Security Council have grown dim, and we appear increasingly reliant on a single-track effort to expand financial pressure on Iran outside of the UN Security Council. Iran's actions, both on its nuclear program and in Iraq, are unchanged. Iran's leaders appear increasingly confident in their positions vis-a-vis the United States.

Unless there is a strategic shift, I believe we will find ourselves in a dangerous and increasingly isolated position in the coming months. I do not see how the collective actions that we are now taking will produce the results that we seek. If this continues, our ability to sustain a united international front will weaken as countries grow uncertain over our motives and unwilling to risk open confrontation with Iran, and we are left with fewer and fewer policy options.


An approach such as this [that is, direct talks] would strengthen our ability across the board to deal with Iran. Our friends and allies would be more confident to stand with us if we seek to increase pressure, including tougher sanctions on Iran. It could create a historic new dynamic in US-Iran relations, in part forcing the Iranians to react to the possibility of better relations with the West. We should be prepared that any dialogue process with Iran will take time, and we should continue all efforts, as you have, to engage Iran from a position of strength.

Hagel, whom I regard as a man of enormous credibility on such matters (see, for example, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), is absolutely right. The warmongers around Bush, such as Cheney (above all), will no doubt refuse to follow his advice -- they will take it and reject it without much thought -- but their saber-rattling is dangerous, reckless, and deeply irresponsible (see here and here). They want war (now) not just without pursuing possibly successful alternatives to war first, as Hagel suggests here, but seemingly without any regard for the consequences, or at least without adequately (by which I mean: honestly) assessing the likely consequences. They may be delusional, but they are certainly stupid, and they are guiding their country and much of the rest of the world, notably the volatile Middle East, toward disaster.

The war with Iran may already be underway, but maybe, just maybe, there is time to reverse course. But that would require the recipients of Hagel's letter acting sincerely on his advice and initiating open and honest dialogue with Iran in good faith.

There is no reason to be confident they will do anything of the sort.

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Tiny Tim: Meet the Press and the undermining of American democracy

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Our must-read of the day is a fantastic piece by Paul Waldman at The American Prospect on Tim Russert -- who he is, what he stands for, and how the insider media culture he embodies is harming not just political discourse in America but America's very political process. Make sure to read the entire piece, but here are a few key passages:

Last month, near the end of the Democratic presidential debate in New Hampshire, moderator Tim Russert -- known as "Washington's toughest interviewer" and perhaps the most influential journalist in America -- had one last chance to pin the candidates down with his legendary common sense, persistence, and no-bull style. This is what he asked, first to Barack Obama:

"There's been a lot of discussion about the Democrats and the issue of faith and values. I want to ask you a simple question. Senator Obama, what is your favorite Bible verse?"

When Obama finished his answer, Russert said to the other candidates, "I want to give everyone a chance in this. You just take 10 seconds." Predictable banality ensued. A foreign visitor unfamiliar with our presidential campaigns might have scratched her head and said, "This is how you decide who will lead your country?"

Indeed it is, because the process is controlled by Tim Russert and people like him. Russert's Bible question encapsulates everything wrong with him, and with our political coverage more generally. It seeks to make candidates look bad rather than finding out something important about them (if you want to explore a candidate's religious beliefs, you don't do it in pop-quiz form and give them just ten seconds to answer). It substitutes the personal anecdote for the policy position, the sound-bite for the substantive answer. It distills the debate into a series of allegedly symbolic, supposedly meaningful moments that can be replayed.

This type of debate question is not about what the candidate believes and would actually do in office, but about how clever the moderator is for cornering the candidate. And above all, it takes a genuinely relevant matter (a candidate's view of the universe) and crams it through a channel by which the thoughtful candidate will be pilloried and the shallow, pandering, overly rehearsed candidate will garner praise.

Russert claims -- and claims repeatedly, ad nauseam -- that he speaks for "Buffalo," the heartland, the working class, speaking truth to power, demanding answers from those in power, demanding on behalf of the people, Buffalo's man in Washington, at the Georgetown cocktail parties, tearing down the Establishment from within, a horse full of Greeks holding Troy at bay, ready and eager to strike, whenever necessary.

But -- not so much. What Russert is really about is not "Buffalo" -- he doth protest far, far too much, and it's all an act, a "well-designed" persona, artifice, a concoction, a performance -- but unaccountable self-glorification:

The two parties' nominees will be decided three months from now, and we can be sure that in that time, at least one or two candidates will have their campaigns upended by the answer they gave to an absurd question, delivered by Tim Russert or someone like him, about what their favorite Bible verse is, or whom they want to win the Super Bowl, or what kind of beer they like. "Aha!" the reporters will shout, as though they actually unearthed something revealing on which the race for the presidency of the most powerful nation on earth should be decided. The one whose tiny little mind devised the question will be praised to the stars for his journalistic acumen.

In Russert's "democracy," Meet the Press is supreme. Forget the nuances of policy, forget serious debate. What Russert would prefer, it would seem, would be for the candidates -- the presidential ones, for example -- to come on his show, face his "tough" questioning, his "gotcha" attempts, and stand aside while his fellow insiders, David Broder and his ilk, sit around the table and chit-chat in turn, one after the other, round and round, offering their snide remarks and shallow commentary, stewing happily in the permanent glory of their oh-so-telegenic, oh-so-brilliant selves, self-important to the end.

And then the voters -- you know, those beer-swilling football fans in Buffalo -- could select a candidate based not so much on how he or she performed for their host but rather on how his or her performance was judged by the telegenic and brilliant ones, the self-appointed (or Russert-appointed) arbiters of American politics.

And then: Go Bills! Just to seem oh-so-democratic, oh-so-in-touch with the people, those not privileged enough to live inside the Beltway, let alone to attend Georgetown cocktail parties.

You know, people like us.


This overt dislike of Tim Russert is new to me, more or less. I never minded him -- but then I never paid him much attention. I watch football on Sunday, not Meet the Press, figuring I'll get the highlights, whatever they are, later on. But, aside from that, he was, to me, relatively okay. And by that I mean he was (and still is) better than most of his colleagues. Say, the insufferable Chris Matthews, or anyone on Fox News.

But it is precisely Russert's importance, his lofty status atop the establishment, that makes him worthy of such criticism. In the end, who cares about Chris Matthews? Even about Fox News? -- we all know its ideological bent. But Russert, well, he's a self-styled man of the people without a clear ideological agenda, an insider who asserts neutrality and who has positioned himself as one of Washington's most important and influential figures. That position, combined with his media persona, has permitted him to wield enormous power over American politics, and to do so unaccountably. He will not have the final say over who wins the White House next year -- thankfully, there are still elections -- but he will certainly do his best, however much he may deny it, to influence the process. And hence the outcome.

And you'll be able to catch it on Meet the Press.

Me? -- I'll be busy.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A blow to road runners everywhere

By Creature

ACME endorses Hillary! Oh, wait, AFSCME endorses Hillary. Jeez, for a second there I thought she had the coyote vote all wrapped up. Oh well, I guess having "the country's largest and most politically influential union" on her side is pretty good too. This must be seen as a blow to Edwards and his union courting campaign.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Shameless, part II

By Capt. Fogg

Malcom Nance knows whether waterboarding is torture or not, even if Michael Mukasey doesn't know and if God's own president doesn't think you know. Nance is a former master instructor and chief of training at the U.S. Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE) in San Diego. He's a counterterrorism consultant for the Government's Special Operations, Homeland Security and intelligence agencies and he's had it done to him. Even though he knew he wasn't going to be killed, those who undergo such treatment in some sordid basement in a third world hellhole don't know that and like most of us, they'll say anything to make it stop.

Nance was waterboarded and supervised the waterboarding of 300 other men, not to elicit information, but so that our men would know what might await them at the hands of some evil empire on a par with the United States of America.

In an op-ed piece in the New York
Daily News today, Nance tells us that no matter how you look at it, waterboarding is torture:

In the media, waterboarding is called "simulated drowning," but that's a misnomer. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning. Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word. Usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch.

I doubt Mukasey would be able even to watch such a proceeding without being overcome. I doubt that most people would, but the truth is, such evil really does lurk in the hearts of men and the most ordinary people will do the most heinous things given the opportunity and the immunity and there are countless histories to prove it.

But our prospective Attorney General is capable of being evasive and we're capable of looking the other way or telling ourselves that "these people," these "terrorists" deserve it, even when they're kids picked up on the street in random sweeps or for having a suspicious name or because some enemy denounced them. face it we're capable of almost anything.

One has to overcome basic human decency to endure causing the effects. The brutality would force you into a personal moral dilemma between humanity and hatred. It would leave you questioning the meaning of what it is to be an American,

says Nance, but moral dilemmas don't exist in our administration and are usually avoided by our citizens and beyond the degradation of all our claims of leadership, our pretended ideals, we have created by this sort of action, a worldwide culture of anti-American hate that will not go away in our lifetimes, if ever.

It's well that history will remember Bush as the man who murdered America, but it is not well for us. I think we have been tried and found wanting, our values reduced to meanness our democracy eaten away by the cancer of patriotism and we haven't the slightest ability or inclination to seek redemption.

(Cross-posted from
Human Voices.)

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Leadership qualities, in no particular order

By Carol Gee

We see our next national leader parading through the news of the day. To select the best of the lot we will soon need to pay close attention to each of these people, since the election happens in the next few months. Some of us are beginning to narrow our choices; some are still resisting. Some bloggers are going public with endorsements; some have probably already made their pick, but are not yet telling. I am in the latter group.

But I do have some leadership criteria. We need a smart principled person with a sense of history, and feet on the ground. These are not unreasonable traits, and can best be illustrated with examples. As I was catching up with the latest "buzz" this morning, a few criteria elements in my favorite bloggers' posts caught my eye as pertinent to leadership questions of qualification.

The President of the United States must have a modicum of sanity. We have nice contrasts among the current candidates of both parties. I am with Dennis Kucinich in this assessment of our current president (OCP). From the AP at Yahoo! News: "Kucinich questions Bush's mental health." To quote:

Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich questioned President Bush's mental health in light of comments he made about a nuclear Iran precipitating World War III.

"I seriously believe we have to start asking questions about his mental health," Kucinich, an Ohio congressman, said in an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer's editorial board on Tuesday. "There's something wrong. He does not seem to understand his words have real impact."

The President of the United States must uphold the Constitution. Here's one blogger's opinion offering a strong contrast to OCP's long-standing disdain for the rule of law. posted this: "A Time For True Leadership: Chris Dodd for President" (hat tip to the Mahablog for this). To quote:

. . . Dodd has been at his best most recently in showing immense leadership and the truest understanding of our nation's meaning in standing strong against attempts by the Bush administration to let telecommunications companies off the hook for aiding and abetting the White House in their illegal domestic spying on American citizens. Despite little support from his Senate colleagues and eerie initial silence from his fellow presidential candidates, Dodd came out and said last week that he would place a Senatorial "hold" on any bill granting immunity to companies that have assisted George W. Bush in spying on Americans without required warrants and announced that he would filibuster any such legislation to keep it from passing.

The President of the United States must have strong principles. The current administration provides us with the most unprincipled model I can imagine. But Andrew Sullivan's post "America Fights Back" on The Daily Dish at The Atlantic, describes shining exceptions -- by example principled men -- within those Republican ranks. I quote:

Whenever I have gotten too depressed about what has happened to this country these past few years, it helps to recall that almost all the abuses of decency, justice and transparency under the Bush administration have been exposed by many decent, professional individuals within the government itself. For every Geoffrey Miller, there has been an Ian Fishback. For every David Addington, there has been a Jack Goldsmith. And there have been some surprises: three cheers for John Ashcroft, for example, a man I often derided, but whose integrity has shone brightly under the more exacting light of history.

The President of the United States must possess a modicum of intelligence. Blogger "lapopessa" illustrated, with "US Stands Firm!" that intellect is a prime requisite for any new United States leader, in contrast to the current one's abysmal foreign policy ignorance. To quote her sardonic words,

So it's with relief I heard that Bush has reaffirmed our embargo against Cuba. Yup. Since 1963, the US has refused to trade with Cuba. Because once you start trading with those Commies, then the next step is red flags marching down US streets. Except, wait, isn't trade with China the administration's antidote to communism there?

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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On debates and drivers licenses

By Creature

I watched last night's Democratic debate in its entirety. While it was more lively than previous debates, I hate to say, at times, it became more background noise as the ideological spin combined with the hoots, hollers, and honks of an East Village evening. X has a good round-up at SotD, but my quick impressions are as follows:

Biden, once again, had the best line of the night with his Giuliani attack. Biden snarked, "There are only three things he mentions in a sentence... A noun and a verb and 9/11. He is genuinely not qualified to be president" [Video here]

Edwards won me over with his criticism of Hillary's support for the Kyl-Lieberman resolution. Edwards slammed it saying it was "written in the language of the neocons... [and it] gave Bush and Cheney exactly what they wanted."

Obama did nothing to impress me. If anything he lost more ground with his wishy-washy opening line about how the media has "over-hyped" his statement regarding going after Hillary more aggressively and then proceeded to frame Hillary as a flip-flopper. I thought his tone there smacked of Kerry '04 and it just didn't sit right. Lastly with Obama, and I realize this isn't Last Comic Standing, I thought his Rocky joke fell flat, almost embarrassingly so.

Hillary, under fire all night, held her own. She continued to give non-answers, but her non-answers contained just enough substance to where she comes off sounding knowledgeable and competent. And, while Chris Matthews hammered her for wavering on the NY Governor's proposal to give drivers licenses to illegals--a proposal, BTW, he has now watered down and backed off of, for which the NYT yesterday correctly took him to task --i t was Dodd's unequivocal negative response to the Governor's proposal that soured me on him, not Hillary (though she will have to answer to the Right for her pro-immigrant response).

Dodd called Spitzer's plan "troublesome" and went on to say that a drivers license is a "privilege, not a right." I'm sorry, but that's enough to knock Dodd out of contention in my progressive book. To some a drivers license is a necessity, it's a means to feed a family, and granting them without prejudice is smart policy. Dodd showed a bit of Dobbs there and I did not like it one bit.

Overall, I may be back on the Edwards bandwagon.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Deserting a sinking ship

By Carl

A-frikkin'-men, is all I have to say, whatever the reasons:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29 — Deborah Pryce said she was fed up with ugly politics and being separated from her 5-year-old daughter. David L. Hobson is reaching the end of his time at the top of a powerful subcommittee. Ralph Regula will turn 83 in December, and he said he wanted to pass on his political wisdom to students and drive the flashy Thunderbird he had just bought.

None of these senior Republicans from Ohio, all of whom have announced plans not to seek another term in the House next year, cite their reduced status in the minority as a major factor in deciding to join the exodus of their party members from Congress. Nor do they mention the bleak prospect that running for re-election could mean spending millions of dollars and toughing out a difficult campaign, only to lose anyway.

Yet those factors are there, just beneath the surface, and make it easier to give up a job that they acknowledge is exceedingly hard to quit despite the travel, constituent complaints, constant demands of fund-raising and the all-but-permanent campaign to remain in office.

“Obviously, I would rather be in the majority,” said Mr. Regula, who has spent almost 50 years in public service, considering his state and federal offices. “But it is just time.”

Yeeeeeeeeeeah! But it's not about being in the minority, no sir...

14 House Republicans have announced their retirement, including most recently Presidential candidate Tom "I'm not nuts, I'm right! I really am!" Tancredo.

Among the Republican Senators retiring are Wayne Allard (CO), Larry Craig (ID), Chuck Hagel (NE), Pete Domenici (NM), and John Warner (VA). Democrats stand excellent chances in three of those races, and I wouldn't count out Larry Craig's seat changing hands, either, since people in his state may be completely frustrated with the lack of moral fibre in the Republican party and will punish them the only way they can.

Ted Stevens (AK) hasn't announced that he'll retire, but he will be under enormous pressure to as the FBI ramps up an investigation that involves him.

Three Democratic Senators have announced their retirement as well, according to The Times' article, and the Cook Political Report mentions an additional 13 possible Republican retirements, including Senators Inhofe (OK), Cochran (MS), and Congresscritter Shays (CT).

The curious bit about all this was how the Republicans mentioned here were all tired of the "ugly politics," as if they were innocent bystanders.

In point of fact, if you are one of 200+ people who are committed to a platform that includes division and rancor, you have to look to yourself first and foremost as the main cause of the problem. For Pryce in particular to whinge about ugly politics is ironic, since she's prominently featured in one of Ohio's worst politic scandals, the Bob Ney controversy.

Of course, when a party features such facilitators (*snark*) as Tom DeLay, Karl Rove, and Newt Gingrich, all of whom have carefully crafted a political atmosphere poisoned with hatred and oppression, it shouldn't surprise us to find out that even Republicans got their fair share of venom and spite hurled at them.

The sense you get in 2007, a year out, is that Republicans have realized they'd better fold up tents and regroup now, that Karl Rove's dream of a Republican hegemony to run concurrent to the American empire in the Middle East, was flawed and lethal to the party's chances. A new strategy is needed.

I'm only sad at the damage the country has had to suffer while these cowboys and yahoos have had to work out their anger management issues in public.

(Cross-posted at
Simply Left Behind.)

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Not good enough

By Creature

Yesterday the administration's nominee for attorney general, Michael Mukasey, sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee hoping to clarify his answer on the legality of waterboarding. An answer which should not be in doubt, yet still Mukasey can't shake his case of the Gonzaleses and unequivocally say that waterboarding is, in fact, illegal. He will say it's "repugnant" and that's enough for wavering Republicans, and probably enough for spineless Democrats as well.

We have lost our moral anchor.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Scary movies

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Today is Halloween. Politically speaking, the scariest thing I can think of is a Giuliani presidency (or any Republican presidency, for that matter, but a Giuliani victory next November would unleash genuine horrors upon the world), but why concern ourselves with such nightmares today? You'll all be out at parties tonight, dressed up in some costume, or out with the kids trick-or-treating -- or doing whatever it is you do in support of Celtic paganism (Samhain) -- but if you're looking for something to do right now (say, you're at work and looking for something to occupy you, or you're at home and want to sit back and relax), why not check out these two incredible films: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) and Nosferatu (1922)?

The former may be the first horror film ever made, a masterpiece of cinematic expressionism by Robert Wiene -- about a creepy doctor, sleepwalking, and murder. The latter is the story of Dracula, also an expressionist masterpiece, by F.W. Murnau. They are both quite short -- Caligari runs about 51 minutes, Nosferatu about 84 minutes -- and they are both silent (with music and intertitles, of course). And they are both amazing. (If for some reason the videos don't work here, go here and here.)


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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Could this actually be true?

By Carol Gee

"Dems have upper hand on national security," was the headline from about a week ago at Written by Martin Kady II, this piece made me realize that I had probably better not give up on getting usable material from this website. (I had been getting discouraged, as my regular readers know, by what seemed like a Republican bias). The story begins with this amazing assertion which I quote:

By most accounts, Democrats should be feeling confident about winning the hearts and minds of voters when it comes to national security.

Whether it’s the Bush administration’s controversial surveillance tactics, interrogation techniques, the Blackwater security scandal or the stalemate in Iraq, Democrats have an easy message to sell voters: “We’re not them.”

For the first time since Sept. 11, 2001, polls show that Republicans have lost their historic advantage on which party Americans trust on national security.

And yet, there are these strong feelings of unease with this so-called good news still swirling in my head. That is because there are too many Democrats I cannot trust to make the right national security decisions. For example, Senator Hillary Clinton's vote on the matter of designating Iran's Republican Guards as a terrorist organization is still a puzzlement to many of us. And Senator Jay Rockefeller's support is shameful, for giving retroactive immunity to the supine telecom companies who for years helped (and still help) the administration illegally and secretly spy on Americans.

And I discovered the other source of my feelings of unease in a Tomgram, titled "The Bureaucracy, the March, and the War - American Disengagement," by Tom Engelhardt. He wrote this absolutely wonderful and thoughtful piece on the recent protest marches against the Iraq war. It is related to the beginning of this post, in my opinion, in the following ways based on his ideas which I emphasize. I quote, a bit more extensively than I normally do:

. . . over the years, unlike in the Vietnam era, the demonstrations shrank, and somehow the anxiety, the anger -- though it remained suspended somewhere in the American ether -- stopped manifesting itself so publicly, even as the war went on and on. Or put another way, perhaps the anger went deeper and turned inward, like a scouring agent. Perhaps it went all the way into what was left of an American belief system, into despair about the unresponsiveness of the government -- with paralyzing effect. As another potentially more disastrous war with Iran edges into sight, the response has been limited largely to what might be called the professional demonstrators. The surge of hope, of visual creativity, of spontaneous interaction, of the urge to turn out, that arose in those prewar demonstrations now seemed so long gone, replaced by a far more powerful sense that nothing anyone could do mattered in the least.

. . . Here's the strange thing: As we all know, the Washington Consensus -- Democrats as well as Republicans, in Congress as in the Oval Office -– has been settling ever deeper into the Iraqi imperial project. As a town, official Washington, it seems, has come to terms with a post-surge occupation strategy that will give new meaning to what, in the days after the 2003 invasion, quickly came to be known as the Q-word (for the Vietnam-era "quagmire").

. . . Meanwhile, the American people -- having formed their own Iraq Study Group as early as 2005 -- have moved in another direction entirely. On this, the opinion polls have been, and remain (as Mueller suggested they would), unanimous. When Americans are asked how the President is handling the war in Iraq, disapproval figures run 67% to 26% in the most recent CBS News poll; 68% to 30% in the ABC News/Washington Post poll; and, according to CNN's pollsters, opposition to the war itself runs at a 65% to 34% clip. As for "staying" some course in Iraq to 2013 or beyond, that CBS News poll, typically, has 45% of Americans wanting all troops out in "less than a year" and 72% in "one to two years" -- in other words, not by the end of, but the beginning of, the next presidential term in office. (The ABC News/Washington Post poll indicates, among other things, that, by 55% to 40%, Americans feel the Democrats in Congress have not gone "far enough in opposing the war in Iraq"; and that they want Congress to rein in the administration's soaring, off-the-books war financing requests.)

. . . The fact is: Attending a march like Saturday's is still, for me, something like an ingrained civic habit, like.... gulp.... voting, which I can't imagine not doing -- even when it has little meaning to me -- or keeping informed by reading a newspaper daily in print (something that, it seems, just about no one under 25 does any more). These are the habits of a lifetime and they don't disappear quickly. But when they're gone, or if they don't make it to the next generation intact, it's hard, if not impossible, to get them back.

Thus, the story about Americans' willingness to trust Democrats with national security, is tinged with bitter irony for me. Is it good news that Congress is willing to spend obscene amounts of money on making war? Do American liberals believe their expressed opinions can change the minds of Democrats? Is it a good thing for Democrats to reach consensus with Republicans on matters of giving up our civil liberties? Have Progressive young people given up on the government, letting a small minority of their peers do the fighting in the Middle East? Have older Progressives gotten cynical and bitter, turned off and no longer committed to doing their civic duty?

I hope the answer to all these questions is a "no." But I am not so sure. What do you think?

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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God really doesn't like Bush much...

By Carl

Let's see... we've had fires, famine,
and now... floods, in Iraq:

The largest dam in Iraq is at risk of an imminent collapse that could unleash a 20m (65ft) wave of water on Mosul, a city of 1.7m people, the US has warned.
In May, the US told Iraqi authorities to make Mosul Dam a national priority, as a catastrophic failure would result in a "significant loss of life".

However, a $27m (£13m) US-funded reconstruction project to help shore up the dam has made little or no progress.

This dam repair bought to you by the same people who shored up the New Orleans levees ahead of Katrina should have been the warning.

Wait... let me guess... someone skimmed money off this deal, right?

In a report published on Tuesday, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) said US-funded "short-term solutions" had yet to significantly solve the dam's problems.

SIGIR found multiple failures in several of the 21 contracts awarded to repair the dam.

Among the faults were faulty construction and delivery of improper parts, as well as projects which were not completed despite full payments having been made.

Gee... how do you think that happened?

A Reagan-era diplomat turned entrepreneur, [L. Paul] Bremer had recently proven his ability to transform rubble into gold by waiting exactly one month after the September 11 attacks to launch Crisis Consulting Practice, a security company selling “terrorism risk insurance” to multinationals. Bremer had two lieutenants on the economic front: Thomas Foley and Michael Fleischer, the heads of “private sector development” for the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). Foley is a Greenwich, Connecticut, multimillionaire, a longtime friend of the Bush family and a Bush-Cheney campaign “pioneer” who has described Iraq as a modern California “gold rush.” Fleischer, a venture capitalist, is the brother of former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. Neither man had any high-level diplomatic experience and both use the term corporate “turnaround” specialist to describe what they do. According to Foley, this uniquely qualified them to manage Iraq's economy because it was “the mother of all turnarounds.”

Many of the other CPA postings were equally ideological. The Green Zone, the city within a city that houses the occupation headquarters in Saddam's former palace, was filled with Young Republicans straight out of the Heritage Foundation, all of them given responsibility they could never have dreamed of receiving at home. Jay Hallen, a twenty-four-year-old who had applied for a job at the White House, was put in charge of launching Baghdad's new stock exchange. Scott Erwin, a twenty-one-year-old former intern to Dick Cheney, reported in an email home that “I am assisting Iraqis in the management of finances and budgeting for the domestic security forces.” The college senior's favorite job before this one? “My time as an ice-cream truck driver.” In those early days, the Green Zone felt a bit like the Peace Corps, for people who think the Peace Corps is a communist plot. It was a chance to sleep on cots, wear army boots, and cry “incoming”—all while being guarded around the clock by real soldiers.

The teams of KPMG accountants, investment bankers, think-tank lifers, and Young Republicans that populate the Green Zone have much in common with the IMF missions that rearrange the economies of developing countries from the presidential suites of Sheraton hotels the world over. Except for one rather significant difference: in Iraq they were not negotiating with the government to accept their “structural adjustments” in exchange for a loan; they were the government.

Anyone want to venture a guess as to how many of the provisional administrators went on to form Iraq-based corporations that bid on the projects, thus dipping even deeper into tax payer funds?

(Cross-posted at
Simply Left Behind.)

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